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BP Tribe alleges Brown Act violations

October 7, 2010

Members of the Big Pine Tribe are asking the Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council to re-evaluate the way they do business.
The Tribe logged an official complaint late last month claiming the Inyo County-L.A. Standing Committee violated the Brown Act when the Inyo County Board of Supervisors discussed the August Standing Committee meeting in the regular board meeting on Aug. 24 and directed its members on how to vote.
The Tribe is also alleging that, as there were no members of the L.A. City Council present, there was no quorum at the Aug. 27 Standing Committee meeting.
“Per the Brown Act, the Board of Supervisors’ process to deliberate in a prior meeting for determining an action at a future meeting, means that any public input at the future meeting is worthless,” Tribal Administrator Gary Bacock said in a letter to the L.A. City Council and Inyo County Board of Supervisors.
The Brown Act requires that before any government body takes official action, the public must be given notice of the meeting; every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public “before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item”; and there must be a quorum at those meetings for a vote to take place.
The tribe is requesting that the county and LADWP deem all meetings that did not have members of the L.A. City Council present, or that were discussed in a Board of Supervisors meeting prior to the Standing Committee, null and void.
If the agencies accept that request, the Standing Committee would have to revisit several meetings.
Second District Supervisor Susan Cash, who has served on the board since January 2005, said in August that she does not remember ever attending a Standing Committee meeting with members of the L.A. City Council present.
County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said Tuesday county leaders have not yet discussed the letter from Bacock or taken an official stance on the charges that the Brown Act was violated.
County Counsel Randy Keller said Tuesday that the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in 1999 outlining the county’s process for the Standing Committee.
Basically, he said, the two members of the Board of Supervisors who sit on the Standing Committee represent the entire board, and must meet with the other board members to discuss upcoming actions before voting on Standing Committee agenda items.
“I don’t think it’s a Brown Act problem as long as the meetings are noticed,” Keller said, adding that all pre-discussions about Standing Committee meetings are made public through the Board of Supervisors agenda, which is released to the public the Thursday before each meeting.
Board members are also appointed to other committees, such as the Local Transportation Committee. However, there are rarely board discussions about those committee meetings at the board level prior to those meetings being held.
Keller said the county has 30 days to respond to the Tribe’s letter.
Carunchio said the Board of Supervisors has not yet scheduled a discussion about the allegations, but if the county does choose to respond, the discussion will be held in an open forum.
Representatives of the LADWP said Wednesday L.A. city attorneys are currently preparing a response to the Tribe, but that letter will not be made public until it is completed.
In his letter, Bacock said the Tribe feels its voice was not hear at the Aug. 27 meeting when the Standing Committee discussed the Big Pine Re-greening project.
Bacock himself was not permitted to finish reading into the record a letter he wrote asking the Standing Committee to reconsider activating a pump in Big Pine to “make up” for water it would lose in the re-greening project.
Other tribal members were given three minutes to comment.

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